By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Telling the Exodus on Seder Night
In this parsha we find the commandment to tell the Exodus story on Seder night. The Zohar expands this idea generally to all times, saying that one should publicize the miracles that Hashem has brought upon a person. One chapter in Tehilim that discusses this publicized praise is chapter 107, which is also customarily recited in many congregations on Pesach. Fromm this chapter our Sages learned that there are four groups of people that are obligated to recite the “Gomel blessing.” At the time of the Temple these groups are also meant to offer a Toda offering.
These groups are depicted in R’ Nachshon’s painting here. To the right we see the word “hayim” which is meant to indicate the verse “vechol hahayim yoducha sela” – “all shall praise you.” The word “Hayim” here has been used as a mnemonic to indicate the four groups of people who must thank God. These are: Havush – one in bondage, Yisurim – one ill, Yam – one who has gone on sea voyage [today poskim include in this category airflight], and Midbar – passing through a wilderness. Note that the order of this mnemonic does not accord with the order of the illustrations to their side. Rather, it seems that the illustrations go according to the order of the verses in chapter 107.
Those who travel in the desert are depicted here in a night setting in which there is a waning moon, a symbol of the waning power of Israel, since Israel are symbolized by the moon. Much of the desert is depicted in black a shade that is often considered a symbol of evil, as we have discussed in the past. One of the people is depicted as a bird, a matter that may hint to the power of evil/demons as our Sages describe demons to be bird-like. The left column here depicts the verse in chapter 107 literally: “And He led them by a straight way, that they might go to a city of habitation.”
The second illustration depicting one in bondage is quite self-explanatory. Yet, we do see a white dove which may be symbol of Noah’s dove at the Flood [which may explain the wave-like form as in a flood to the left]. This may hint to the idea that Noah was in a type of bondage so-to-speak at the time of the Flood when he could not leave the ark. The left column here depicts the verse literally: “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands in sunder.”
The third illustration from the top depicts someone ill in bed in prayer as is seen by the outstretched hands, seen in the other illustrations here as well. We see people dressed in white coming to visit him in the mitzva of bikur holim. From the background room and objects it seems clear that this person is quite wealthy, but perhaps Nachshon wanted to express that despite one’s wealth, when one is sick the wealth may be meaningless and one must turn to God for help. This illustration is split by a dark cloud [which may represent the sickness], and to the left of this cloud may be an illustration of how this person before the illness was very healthy and active “in field” even from dawn when the rooster calls. The left column here depicts the verse literally: “And let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with singing.”
The fourth illustration depicts salvation from drowning in a sea voyage. The left column here depicts the verse literally: ” Then were they glad because they were quiet, and He led them unto their desired haven.”
It should be noted that the opening three verses may be seen as a type of title “crowning” the rest of this chapter 107. If so, we may say that the in-gathering of exiles discussed in thiese opening verses stands as the ultimate topic – “crown” – of thanksgiving. This is strengthened in Modim derabanan where we thank and mention explicitly the in-gathering of exiles. Also Kabbalistically thanksgiving – hoda’ah – is rooted to the sefira of hod which is explicitly rooted to the blessing for in-gathering of exiles in the Amida prayer. Of course, Hebron, Beacon of the Holy Land, is a major source of inspiration for in-gathering of exiles to this Land, and thus also for our future redemption – “and He remembers the kindness of the Patriarchs and brings a redeemer for their offspring for His Namesake with love.”